New Machine Operator Apprenticeship Launches in Yakima County for Food Manufacturers

No-cost training to launch this spring to upskill machine operators through registered apprenticeship

Machine Operator

YAKIMA, WA-November 19, 2020 – Over the next 10 years, 596 food-processing employees across Washington State will transition to upper level positions within the company, many requiring skill advancement. Due to a lack of training opportunities in Central Washington, the Aerospace Joint Apprenticeship Committee (AJAC) and South Central Workforce Council have developed the first Machine Operator Registered Apprenticeship program for Washington State’s growing food-manufacturing sector.

AJAC’s 18-month Machine Operator apprenticeship combines 3,000 hours (93%) of structured on-the-job training in your company, on your machines and using your work processes, coupled with 300 hours (7%) of college-level classroom instruction accredited through Yakima Valley College.

At their employer, apprentices work under seasoned mentors to grow skillsets in key areas of focus including:

  • Safety and sanitation
  • Industrial maintenance and mechatronics
  • Equipment set-up
  • Quality assurance and inspection
  • Preventative and predicative maintenance.
  • Food and material science (perishable/non-perishable)
  • Food manufacturing technology

In the classroom, apprentices learn the theory behind machine operation including machine operator technology, industrial maintenance, mechatronics, quality assurance and material science.

Upon completion of the apprenticeship, apprentices will receive a nationally recognized journey-level card from the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries.

To date, AJAC has enrolled 35 apprentices across Washington State employed at food manufacturers including Washington Beef, TransOcean Products, Trident Seafoods, Yakima Chief Hops, Tree Top, and Macro Plastics. The growth in Washington State for Packaging and Filling Machine Operators is significantly higher than the rest of the country. With a 12% growth rate over 10 years, the workforce will need training to meet the economic demand. To meet this economic demand, employers can utilize AJAC’s no-cost Machine Operator apprenticeship as a means grow talent from within and develop a sustainable pipeline of skilled workers for decades to come.

Starting spring 2021, employers can enroll their employees into the apprenticeship program and immediately begin their college-level classroom instruction. The six-course program also gives apprentices the opportunity to earn college credits that can apply towards a post-secondary degree.

Employers interested in offering this apprenticeship to their employees can contact AJAC’s Regional Program Manager, Heather Collins at or 509-574-1958.


AJAC launched in 2008 with an investment from Washington State to skill-up the advanced manufacturing workforce through registered apprenticeship. AJAC developed and implemented 10 high-growth, in-demand apprenticeship occupations to serve a variety of demographics, industries, and companies across the state. AJAC serves approximately 400 apprentices per year at close to 300 companies, collaborating with 12 community colleges to ensure that all apprentices are receiving college credits while working towards a journey-level certificate.

EQUAL OPPORTUNITY – EQUAL ACCESS – It is the mission of the Aerospace Joint Apprenticeship Committee (AJAC) that training shall be without discrimination based on race, sex, color, religion, national origin, age, disability, sexual orientation, veteran status or as otherwise specified by law. WorkSource is an equal-opportunity partnership of organizations that provide employment and training services. Auxiliary aids and services are available upon request to people with disabilities. Washington Relay Service: 711.

Aaron Ferrell, November 19, 2020


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